BY BRIAN JONES
During their July 12 meeting, the Lowndes County School Board discussed land for the potential vocational school and possibly changing the date of the meeting.
Joey Henderson of consulting firm JBHM reminded the board that the proposals they solicited for potential vocational school sites expire later this month.
Last month, Henderson provided the board with nine proposals submitted by landowners; the proposals were good for 45 days. That 45-day period expires July 19. Because the board did not direct him to take any further action, the proposals have been sitting unconsidered.
“Bidders may choose to hold their prices beyond that date, but they are not required to,” Henderson said.
“Do you have a favorite property among the ones that were submitted?” asked Wesley Barrett.
“I have not pursued it further,” Henderson said. “If you want us to pursue it, we will go to the next phase, which is digging into the details of utilities access and that sort of thing. We would need to be directed by the board to do those evaluations.”
Henderson estimated that fees already paid to JBHM would likely cover the cost of the evaluations.
“We’ve got about $15,000 of $20,000 left,” he said. “I don’t think it would take all of that.”
“I have a feeling property values will be higher next year,” Barrett said. “We should pursue this now.”?
“I don’t think property values have gone up that much,” objected Jane Kilgore.
“There was a pretty good range in prices,” Henderson said. “Some of these guys…they kind of know where the numbers are now, so if it goes back out they’ll probably raise prices. I know a couple of these folks have been approached by developers since they put in these prices. They are wanting to know what you’re going to do.”
“But you’ve probably got a top three,” said Board Attorney Jeff Smith. “You could go to those three and ask them to hold their prices for 45 more days.”
“I could, if they would do that,” Henderson said. “But realize that if one of them has someone else in the wings they may say no.”
Superintendent Lynn Wright, who has been the driving force behind creating a centralized vocational school, reiterated the importance of the project.
“At the [Mississippi Association of Superintendents] meeting, our keynote speaker addressed the importance of vocational education,” Wright said. “This is the direction all of the schools across the nation are moving toward. It’s imperative to the future of our country. Right now 70 percent of the students that are high school completers are not ready for service. They are not eligible to be employed. There are 3.5 million jobs that are open that require some skills, but there’s nobody to fill those jobs. These are jobs that require preparation, reading and math and science skills.”
“I think vo-tech is great,” Kilgore said. “But we’ve got (EMCC) here near us, and we need to look into that to make sure we’re getting everything we can.”
“I support moving forward on this,” Jacqueline Gray said. “We need to do as much as we can.”
Gray made a motion to authorize Henderson to begin assessing the proposals and was seconded by Barrett. It passed 4-0. [Brian Clark was not present. – Brian Jones] “In all fairness I’ll contact all nine of the submitters and ask them to hold their proposals for another 45 days,” Henderson said.
Gray asked that the board change its meeting time from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to better accommodate parents and teachers. Gray has made this motion countless times during her tenure on the board, and it usually dies for lack of a second. This time Barrett seconded her motion, but Kilgore quickly asked that it be tabled until next month because Brian Clark was not present.
“I think we should talk about this when the whole board is here,” she said. Her motion to table passed unanimously.
[For more on this meeting, see my column in this week’s Packet. – Brian Jones]0